I’ve severed almost all ties to bloodsucking corporations over the past year. My top three categories of “predatory corporate evils one inevitably has to deal with as an on-the-grid adult” are banks, cable companies and cellphone providers in that order.
1. Banks. A few months back, I abandoned Bank of America in favor of a local credit union that I’d say is about, oh, 1000000000000000x better. Haven’t looked back. I only wish I made the jump sooner. I’ll be doing a more in depth blog post about how to save and even earn a lot of money by changing banks soon.
2. Cable Companies. I decided I didn’t need cable and got DSL for $25 a month through Qwest when I moved to Portland a year ago. Not for everybody—especially those who want to watch TV without downloading or streaming it—but that transition was easy enough. The rate bumped to $50/month after 6 months, but I have had decent service the entire time and have no complaints. Even at the $50 rate, I’m saving about $65 a month ($780/year) over what I used to pay for cable, DVR and internet with Comcast. Also, I have been reading a lot more.
3. CELLPHONES, probably the biggest scam—apart from bi-partisan politics— going in America these days. I have been waiting very impatiently for my cellphone contract with T-Mobile to expire so I could switch providers. In my case, it would have paid for itself to make the switch six months ago, but my cellphone happened to die RIGHT at the cutoff point (why does that always happen???), and I became shackled to the duration of my contract after redeeming my handset insurance. Long story short, they accidentally gave me a $500 credit when they replaced my broken phone, which they somehow only discovered and rectified 3 months later. Maybe that was all part of the evil plan to keep me in their clutches (same with offering me a better rate when I called to cancel my account. Forget it!), but I had to ride it out just in case I got away with it.
Anyway, when all was said and done, my monthly cellphone bill with T-Mobile was around $90.00 every month after fees, taxes and with insurance. This was for an android plan on a network that most often presented as one tiny non 3G bar in my apartment (which is in a major metropolitan area), and constantly dropped my calls to my mom! Not cool.
Over the past few years, a bunch of contract-free “budget” cell providers have popped up all over the place. More recently, they’ve started to get not totally shitty phones, and most now offer unlimited data plans for smartphones. The company in Portland that does this is called Cricket. I just got a phone that runs Android Gingerbread (2.3) on a 600MHz processor and includes a 5.0 MP camera. I was able to get it this month through a web only special for $129.99 shipped free overnight. Here it is:
The Huawei Ascend II, made with pride in China.
This is definitely not a top of the line phone, but it’s totally adequate for my needs and your standard smartphone in 2011. I’m not a person who needs to shoot HD video and stream 2 movies at once while also posting on facebook on my phone. And this phone is actually a lot more impressive and zippy than my last phone, so I’m happy with it. The fact that this and similarly available models are leaps and bounds better than what was offered by these pay as you go providers even a year ago gives me a lot of hope for the future. I think the playing field will eventually become completely leveled, and the big guns may even have to lower their exorbitant prices to keep up with the burner slingers.
If I ever leave my water bottle open in my bag and kill my phone (this has happened), I can replace it for $100—the price should come down in a few months. If a better phone comes out in a year, I can upgrade to that for around the same price. If I decide I hate Cricket and want to switch providers, I can do that any time at no charge. There’s no contract. I love it!
The switch, per month, in summary:
Shitty HTC 1st gen android phone on a shitty T-Mobile network that often had no signal in my house with 300 any time mins., unlimited texting and data, handset insurance (I once paid $400 to replace my phone in contract and learned my lesson), misc. taxes, fees and a two year contract.
Decent android phone on what so far seems to be a way better 3G network at least in the house and city where i spend 95% of my time, unlimited talk, text and data, minor misc. fees and taxes. No contract.
So that’s $35 more a month to spend at the new vegan bar that just opened in the neighborhood or $420/year to blow on organic produce.
I know many could not stand the thought, but losing the iPhone for one of these would yield even more impressive savings as far as I can tell.